Isiah Pacheco’s parents have always supported his football dreams
On Feb. 11, the Kansas City Chiefs running back helped bring his team a victory on football's biggest stage, and his parents, Julio Pacheco and Felicia Cannon, were there to cheer him on. Before becoming a professional athlete, however, Isiah was born in 1999 as the youngest of five children who grew up in Vineland, New Jersey.
After playing football in high school, Isiah decided to stay in the state, close to his parents, and be a student-athlete at Rutgers. Although he had a promising career at the school, he wasn't drafted until the seventh round of the 2022 NFL draft. When he finally got the news that the Chiefs had selected him, he was shocked.
“It all hit me,” Isiah told Forbes. “I had to take a break from packing my bags and really soak it all in.” The next thing he did was call his parents. Not too long after that day, he was playing in the 2023 Super Bowl against the team his family was once a fan of, the Philadelphia Eagles. For the second year in a row, in 2024, Isiah's team won the Super Bowl.
While the running back has found success on the field, the Pacheco family has endured several personal tragedies, including the death of two of Isiah's siblings, Travoise and Celeste. Through it all, the football player and his parents have leaned on each other and focused on his career as their new purpose.
Here is everything to know about Isiah Pacheco's parents, Julio Pacheco and Felicia Cannon.
They raised Isiah in New Jersey
Julio and Felicia raised Isiah about half an hour outside of Philadelphia in Vineland, New Jersey, where they were often seen supporting their son during his high school football games.
While Felicia and Julio have since stayed out of the spotlight, Isiah has talked about how his mom takes pride in cooking for her family. When speaking about his sister with The Press of Atlantic City in 2017, he said, “She could cook, but she couldn’t cook as good as my mom."
Isiah is the youngest sibling
Isiah is the youngest of Felicia's family, which includes four older children, Ricky, Felicia, Travoise and Celeste. Growing up, Felicia said, it didn't matter that Isiah was the youngest of the crew. He was always the one calling the shots.
The mom-of-five told The Press of Atlantic City that Isiah was a huge fan of his older siblings' toys, often stealing them for himself. “We had to tell him you just can’t take other kids’ toys," she said. Felicia added that his older siblings were scared of Isiah on the playground and it amazed her that her youngest son had such strong leadership skills and athletic ability from a young age.
According to his former coaches, how he was raised shone through in his performance on the football field. "He’s just a great representative of his family," Nunzio Campanile, Isiah's former running back coach told USA Today in 2024, "because he’s a really good person." His other high school football coach, Dan Russo, said that he was always close to his parents.
The family has endured multiple tragedies
Two of Isiah's siblings, Travoise and Celeste, were killed in 2016 and 2017, respectively, while he was in high school.
Travoise was killed in a stabbing, an event which fueled Isiah's drive on the football field. “My brother, if he was to see me here, he’d be shocked,” the running back told NJ.com in 2019. “He encouraged me to play football as a kid and he never got the opportunity to see me play.”
Just a year later, Isiah lost the sibling he was closest to, Celeste. He was with his mother when they got the news that Celeste had been killed by her partner, Donald Scurry Jr.
On the day of Celeste's funeral, Isiah also played a high school football game. "I knew that she was looking down on me and took my game to another level because I had something to play for. That was like my why," Isiah told the Big Ten Network in 2021. "I wanted to make her smile so I left it all out there on the field and she would have been proud of me on that day."
"I couldn't believe he had that much grit ... It made me so proud of him. He's my world," Felicia added.
After the tragic deaths of Travoise and Celeste, Julio noticed a change in his son, including that he had become more introverted. “He’s thinking a lot more,” Julio told The Press of Atlantic City.
However, the loss of his siblings gave Isiah a new purpose on the football field and a closer bond with his parents.
"Why do I leave it all out there on the field? You never know when is going to be your last opportunity or [for me] my last time seeing my brother or sister," Isiah told the Big Ten Network.
He added to NJ.com, "Having an opportunity to play ball, it helps me a lot not worrying about the tragedies that happened. It makes me want to go harder.’’
Felicia and Isiah have a close relationship
Since the death of Celeste, Felicia has said that Isiah constantly checks in on her and Celeste's son, Donald Scurry III. When he was still living at home and their grief prevented them from sleeping, the mother-and-son duo would watch football highlights late at night. "He warms my heart," Felicia told The Press of Atlantic City.
They have also stepped up for young Donald. They took him to his first football game, and he had a blast, according to Felicia. “He really doesn’t have parents,” Isiah added. “His father is in jail. I have to be there for him, get him into sports.”
Isiah wears a necklace in honor of his mom
In March 2022, Isiah revealed that his nameplate necklace that says Jody is in honor of his mom.
"It's my mom's nickname. Her real name's Felicia but we call her Jody. She's my heart ... My mom is my everything," he said in a 2022 NFL video. "Times like this being the baby and making it on a stage like this it's something big for our family.
The football player also said that he loves carrying a reminder of his mom with him all the time. "From being the only kid in the family who played football to getting ready to graduate from college in the spring, I'm blessed to be able to represent my mother," he added.
They support Isiah's football career
Ever since he was young, Julio and Felicia have played a huge role in Isiah's football aspirations.
"We knew he was fast so I said let's do it," Julio told the Big Ten Network. "He started playing when he was 8 years old." Through playing pee-wee to one of the biggest teams in the NFL, Julio and Felicia try to attend as many of Isiah's games as possible.
At one particular college football game, after scoring a touchdown, Isiah told NJ.com that he was thinking about his family's support on the field. “I looked up and saw my mom and I blew her two kisses," he said. "My dad after the game asked, ‘Who were you blowing kisses to?’ And my mom was like, ‘He was blowing kisses to me!’ And I said, ‘That’s crazy, ma, because I really was.’ She’s been through so much. I told her that touchdown was for her."
Julio added that supporting Isiah's aspirations brings so much joy and healing. “When he scored that touchdown, his mom and I looked at each other and hugged. I knew those kisses were for her because of everything she’s been through," he said. "But that’s Isiah. He’s a strong kid. He’s a kid who has been through a lot ... He doesn’t show it. He tries to keep our family happy.’’
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